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Speed Kills - Training and Tactics (permalink)

That little puppy turned into a scalded cat in under five seconds.

The “puppy” in question was a full-blown John Cooper Works-converted Mini Cooper S—and methinks the factory had understated the actual horsepower output. Punching the gas pedal on a metropolitan on-ramp to clear upcoming freeway traffic, I noticed that the rear-view mirrors appeared to be faulty—the vehicles behind me seemed to be shrinking at a faster-than-normal rate.

So I flicked a quick glance at the twin speedometers and was shocked to see that both were registering 105 miles per hour. Apparently, during the prior six miles of familiarization and acclimatization with the vehicle, I hadn’t hit the gas pedal hard enough to kick in the turbo. Equally as apparent was the fact that the only faulty equipment in the rocket was the nut behind the steering wheel.

As is my wont, I later retrospectively correlated and analogized the “test drive”—and my stupidity—with the fields of fighting mindset and firearms. The debrief brought forth common denominators, the primary of which was the need to define the difference between speed and alacrity.

A secondary elucidation was to realize that you have to know the limitations and capabilities of both yourself and your equipment

—irrespective of whether you’re driving or gunfighting (or, for that matter, partaking in any other potentially dangerous activity)—and not exceeding them.

Speed kills. It kills imbecilic drivers (and other innocents), and it kills gunfighters who don’t control their emotions. A gun battle is not won by blinding speed. Alacrity is often a deciding factor, but there is a vast difference between being quick and being fast. From Bat Masterson’s Number One Maxim of Deliberation to Jeff Cooper’s oft-repeated line of “Smooth is fast,” the multiple-contact winners have been the quick ones. The fast all died young, or are limping around from self-inflicted wounds in their feet, legs and derrieres.

Speed is necessary—in fact, essential—only for non-firearms-related combat (such as martial artists), competition shooting on inanimate targets, and racing against other contestants or attempting to set new time and/or distance records.

Apart from bad luck and poorly chosen tactics and strategy, vehicle wrecks and gunfighters’ funerals are often caused by not knowing and/or not staying within the bounds of your personal limitations or those of your equipment.

If you exceed your gunfighting mechanical speed, you will blow a hole in yourself, a non-hostile bystander, or—at best—you’ll miss your intended target. None of these three will win a gunfight, and could, in fact, lead to a lot worse than second place.

Somewhere between slow and fast is the happy medium, whether it’s on the racetrack or a deadly force battlefield. Push the needle past the red line on a racetrack and you’ll blow up the motor. Push your drawstroke past your maxi-mum pace of competency on a battlefield and you’ll get blown up.

So the obvious answer is to pace yourself relative to the circumstances at any given time, because if you go too slowly you lose, and if you exceed your or your equipment’s limitations you lose. Fast sucks, slow sucks, quick is good.

The base misconception is born when we are inundated with the stipulation that we have to go faster, faster, faster—when in actuality, if you’re running too slowly, you need to operate more quickly, not faster. Every top-class race driver drives fast because he’s deceptively smooth—and resultantly fast. And every top-class gunfighter is deceptively quick be-cause he employs the Masterson/Cooper “Deliberation” and “Smooth is fast” principles. Everybody else tries to go fast and misses—whether it’s entering a corner on a race track or a target in a gunfight.

And very few people seem to get the concept that they’ll be slower in the street than they are on a practice range—purely and simply because you’re reacting to visual stimuli in battle and audio signals on a practice range. And a physical reaction to an audible stimulus is always quicker than reacting to a visual one.

Once you think you’re behind the power curve, you try to play catch up by exceeding your limitations—and the only result is a crash-and-burn situation. Your pit crew or instructors are the strategists, but you’re the one who has to tactically operate the machinery. You’re not going to catch the leader by stomping on the brakes midway through a corner, and you’re not going to dump an opponent by jerking the trigger on an erratically moving human. The race car/firearms analogies are endless, but excessive speed with either always comes down to two sorry conclusions: Ross Seyfried’s decades-old sagacious comment that “you can’t miss fast enough to catch up,” and Mister Jordan’s “no second place winner” credo.

The only answer to potentially winning—Lady Luck excepted—is to constantly practice drawstroke and sight and target acquisition with unloaded firearms until you have it down to a fine art of alacrity and consistency, and then don’t operate any more slowly or any faster when the fit hits the shan, relative to the circumstances at that given time. You then practice the same sequences with loaded guns, but don’t push the manipulation rev counter any higher. Slow and steady don’t win the gunfight race. Quick and steady do.

Race drivers and gunfighters can have long, successful careers, but death is unavoidable and permanent. Pace yourself. You’ll meet your maker soon enough without unnecessarily speeding up the process.

Louis Awerbuck is Director of the internationally acclaimed Yavapai Firearms Academy. Course information and schedules are available at their website at http://www.yfainc.com

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Slow is smooth; Smooth is fast.